Want to be a Great Creative Professional in 5 Years? Master These 4 Skills

September 25, 2017

These are the skills creative professionals need to learn over the next five years to stay ahead.

Virtually all industries are expected to go under extreme change over the next five years. And yet, when we asked creative experts what changes they expect over that time, many echoed a similar mantra: great design is great design. The fundamentals don’t change.

That said, of course there are always new tools that designers will have to use over the next five years. But, unlike the other industries we inquired about, we heard creative experts harping on the importance of “old school” skills.

What are those skills exactly? To find out we consulted with these five creative leaders:

  • Bonnie Siegler, founder of Eight and a Half one of the world’s most influential designers, according to Graphic Design USA, who has done work for SNL, HBO, The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and many others.
  • Stefan Mumaw, creative director at Hint with more than 20 years of experience as a creative and art director.
  • Von Glitschka, founder and operator of Glitschka Studios with more than 30 years of experience in the design industry.
  • Kristin Ellison, LinkedIn Learning manager of creative pro content with nearly 20 years of experience in the design industry.
  • James Fritz, senior manager of creative content at LinkedIn Learning with more than 10 years of experience in the design industry.

The five highlighted four skills that creatives need to master. They are:

1. Design fundamentals

Creative mediums and software have changed over the years and will continue to change over the next five years. But, regardless of those changes, great design still comes down to the fundamentals.

“I may be in the minority here, but I don’t think the most important skills ever really change for creatives,” Siegler said. “It’s always been about being able to have great ideas and execute them beautifully and appropriately for the given client. Being able to surprise and delight the audience is not dependent on knowing a kind of software.”

Glitschka agreed, saying that the most important skill for creatives to master is one that has been around since the cavemen: drawing.

“I’m a firm believer that even though we all work digitally, ideas are still best developed in analog,” Glitschka said. “Even though technology keeps marching on, the skill of drawing will remain the one key analog method that will continue to bridge the past with the future and help improve it both cognitively and practically.”

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach that skill:

2. Storytelling creatively

More companies than ever before are producing products and content they believe are unique. How is your design supposed to cut through the sonic boom of noise that’ll come over the next five years?

Creativity. Or, more specifically, creatively telling an organization’s story.

“You can have the greatest drawing skills, or design chops, but if you don't understand that the best solutions to any creative endeavor are both relevant and novel, your ‘solutions’ will miss the mark – no matter how well-crafted they are,” Ellison said. “It's a pretty simple formula that most anyone can employ – even those who say they are not creative, or those in business who are trying to come up with something such as a new product for the market. Creativity is the most basic skill, below even color, typography and layout for graphic designers.”

Mumaw echoed those thoughts.

“Great ideas have both relevance AND novelty, and as such, require creatives to know how to tell effective stories of potential and impact,” he said. “They have to weave a world that could be in to the hearts and minds of the people who make the decisions to fund or kill these new ideas. Storytelling becomes a vital skill to launching anything of value.”

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach that skill:

3. A bias for learning

The first two skills both reinforce this idea that great design comes down to great fundamentals. But, there almost certainly will be new tools that’ll emerge in the creative space over the next five years that’ll change how people consume content.

Additionally, the industries creatives serve will go under great change as well. And, on top of all of that, budgets and timelines continue to tighten – meaning creatives need to assess and solve a client’s problem faster than ever.

To navigate moving forward, creatives will need to possess a bias for learning, which includes experimenting with new tools to find the best, most cost-effective solution for their clients.

“The ability to recognize the greater need in any problem creatives are asked to solve becomes paramount,” Mumaw said. “If there is a way to solve that problem faster and cheaper, the creative who discovers those solutions becomes tremendously valuable.”

“Being flexible and understanding how your concepts will be seen and used has always been critical, and will remain so,” Siegler added.

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach that skill:

4. Design thinking

Design thinking is increasingly becoming the standard for all creative professionals. And yet, most educational institutions have yet to adjust.

“It is a soft skill that isn't often taught to creatives in schools, let alone to business professionals,” Fritz said. “This will set you apart from your peers since it encourages you to step away from the computer and think about your customer and how you can better serve their problems.”

So, what is design thinking? It’s about putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer, understanding how they’ll interact with a product. Design thinking for product designers, for example, means building a rough prototype of the product and then use it as a regular consumer would, adjusting the design where needed.

In fact, design thinking is something that all business professionals should embrace, not just creative pros. It’s the idea of always keeping the consumer top-of-mind, which allows creatives to design campaigns and products that best meet the needs of the market.

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach that skill:

The takeaway

In an experience economy like the one we are moving to, design becomes more important than ever. Hence, the need for creatives will only continue to spike over the next five years.

The challenge for creatives will be designing products and messages that stand out from the pack. To do that well, it comes down to the basics: do you really understand the customer? What story will resonate with them the most? Can you convey that story eloquently?

By mastering the four skills listed in this article, you’ll be set up to answer those questions. And that’ll prepare any creative not just for today, but also for 2022.

This article is part of a series on the future of skills that you and your team will need to succeed moving forward. Our other articles cover: